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Oculus Social Alpha delivers group watching to virtual reality

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Oculus announced a "multiplayer mode" for its Cinema app was on the way, and today it has arrived. Currently available in the Oculus Store for any of Samsung's Gear VR devices (make sure you update your Oculus Video app too) the Oculus Social Alpha lets up to five people watch a Twitch or Vimeo stream in a virtual home theater setting. As seen in earlier previews the viewers are represented by head-tracked avatar disembodied avatars. When I tried it, the effect was slightly disconcerting, but the video stream on the screen looked just about as good as Twitch can, and the heads turned and represented each viewer realistically enough that conversation wasn't awkward.

The only real problem I saw was the weight of the first-gen headset, and an inability to interact with Twitch streams. The first part has been addressed by a new Gear VR, and software updates can fix the rest. Upload VR noted some crashes while using wireless headphones, but I didn't have any issues once I plugged in a wired setup. We'll see if this experience extends to the likes of Netflix and Hulu soon.

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